Campaigners have vowed to continue their fight to protect food standards after MPs this week rejected amendments to the agriculture bill.
Ministers have repeatedly insisted that there are no plans to allow products including chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-fed beef into the country.
However, there are concerns they could change their tune in order to strike a trade deal with the US. “Putting these protections into law is vital to protect us against trade deals that could lower food production standards, threaten our environmental and climate change commitments, and undercut British farmers,” said Gareth Morgan, head of farming and land use policy at the Soil Association.
Writing in the Guardian this week, Food, Farming and Countryside Commission chief executive Sue Pritchard, warned that declining to write UK standards into legislation “assumes that we can always rely on markets to do the right thing. And the evidence suggests that this is too big a risk to take.”
Foodservice and hospitality brands have told Footprint they will shun US meat unless it is produced to domestic standards. However, there is growing recognition that the lack of origin labelling requirements makes the sector an easy target for US meat producers looking to find an outlet for their products.
A handful of Tory MPs rebelled against the government whip but it wasn’t enough. Morgan urged peers to “hold their ground” as the bill returned to the House of Lords. Vicki Hird, head of sustainable farming at Sustain, said: "We will continue to work with parliamentarians to get amendments passed on this bill.“
MPs have also been debating the fisheries bill, which is shaping up to undermine efforts to improve the sustainability of the sector. The environment bill meanwhile continues to be delayed and will not come under scrutiny until December.